Investor Buffett’s Money Not Where His Mouth Is

Published June 8, 2015

Warren Buffett, billionaire investor and fundraiser for President Obama, made headlines in March for blasting the White House veto of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, saying he would have passed it. Buffett emphasized his support for the pipeline despite his ownership in Berkshire Hathaway, including subsidiaries BNSF Railway and Union Tank Car Company, making him an oil-by-rail mogul and competitor against oil pipelines.

His support for the Keystone XL might simply reflect a long-range plan to buy the competing pipeline’s owner, TransCanada Corp.; but it’s utterly baffling in the light of Buffett’s philanthropic giving. Since 2004 his Novo Foundation has given $30.5 million to the ultra-left San Francisco-based Tides conglomerate – Foundation and Center – with more than $7 million in 2013 grants alone earmarked for extremist projects including protests against oil pipelines. Why?

Buffett, a cunning investor with an estimated net worth of $72 billion, is known for the unexpected, not for the inexplicable.

Buffett’s Ties to Tides

Why did self-proclaimed supporter of oil pipelines Warren Buffett’s foundation give $6,395,927 in 2013 to Tides Foundation? Tides funneled $644,187 to the Tides Center’s project, Honor the Earth, a Minnesota-based Native American organization. Honor the Earth used the money for a protest against the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline, stretching from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

Self-proclaimed Keystone XL pipeline supporter Buffett’s foundation also gave $670,388 to the Indigenous Environmental Network, another Native American organization that also protested against the Sandpiper pipeline? 

For those counting, a total of $1,314,575 of Warren Buffett’s money was spent fighting the Enbridge Sandpiper project.

In the May 14, the Investor’s Business Daily Paul Driessen,senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, wrote, “When Keystone XL and other pipelines were blocked, more oil was shipped by rail – much of it via Buffett companies. In fact, oil-by-rail skyrocketed from 9,500 carloads in 2009 to 450,000 carloads in 2014. Mr. Buffett’s ‘investment’ in anti-pipeline activism garnered billions in rail revenues.”

Driessen may not have looked into Buffett’s involvement in anti-pipeline activism, had it not been for an April 30 counter-protest organized by the free-market advocate, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and its CFACT Campus chapters at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin. CFACT’s Executive Director Craig Rucker was collecting materials for his Collegians when a staff member who tracks anti-free market activists showed him an issue of the left-wing online investigative news site, CounterPunch, and its lead story, “Buffet Acquires The Non-Profit Industrial Complex,” with its sub-headline, “Ignoring the Fact that the Oligarchs Finance the ‘Movements’ | TIDES.” The author Cory Morningstar, a Canadian investigative reporter, examined the capture of the environmental movement by the money of what a 2014 U.S. Senate report called “The Billionaires Club.”

Left Exposes Buffett’s Anti-Pipeline Activities

Rucker contacted me as a long-time CFACT policy advisor to see if I could establish the article’s credibility, for if it was accurate, it gave a whole new slant on what the campus chapters’ counter-protest was really all about. I contacted Morningstar, we put our political differences aside, and delved into her research. 

Hours later and numerous searches through several proprietary databases, it was evident to me Morningstar’s meticulous line-by-line study of IRS Form 990-PF foundation reports was spot on. From her far-left environmental purist perspective, she had come to the same conclusion as my libertarian/conservative view: wealthy elites and their private foundations were running the environmental movement by deciding who gets the money. She wrote in CounterPunch:

The Tides Foundation could best be described as a priceless, magical, money funneling machine of epic proportions for the oligarchs. It receives money from donors and then distributes these funds to the recipients of their choice. In this way, donors can strategically fund specific campaigns or specific organizations without ever disclosing their identities.

As I was already working on a Heartland Institute project to expose the Left’s activities and funding sources, thus I asked and received Morningstar’s permission to use her work in preparing some of Heartland’s profiles and databank materials. 

Protest Fizzles

Upon my confirmation Morningstar’s story was accurate, CFACT’s Craig Rucker redirected the focus of his Collegians counter-protest. Dozens of counter-protest signs confronted the anti-pipeliners with slogans such as “Honor the Earth Working for Buffett’s Railroad?” and “Don’t Get Railroaded By Big Green $$$” and the coup de grace, “Buffett’s Puppets.” 

The protesters couldn’t deal with the counter-protest. Driessen wrote, “One red-faced protester walked away. Others intensified their chants or shouted racially tinged epithets at the multi-ethnic CFACT students.”

It’s the old cliché, “They can dish it out, but…” You know the rest. 

Ron Arnold ([email protected]) is a free-enterprise activist, author, and commentator.


United States Senate Minority Staff, “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA,”